Tag Archives: clint eastwood

‘Sully’ Gets Oscar Season Off to Solid Start

Sully_xxlg.jpegOh, Oscar season. How we’ve missed you so.


“Sully” stars Tom Hanks in the titular role of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot of US Airways Flight 1549 which was forced to perform an emergency water landing on the Hudson River in January 2009. Aaron Eckhart stars as Sully’s co-pilot and Laura Linney plays his wife as Clint Eastwood directs.


On paper, this has all the workings of a major Oscar player: a real-life story about an American hero, with Tom Hanks on the poster and Clint Eastwood behind the camera. So it may be a little disappointing that “Sully” is good-not-great, but it is still a confidently made adult drama that gets the fall movie season off to a steady start.


It may be somewhat lazy to do, but I find myself comparing this to Eastwood’s last directorial effort, 2014’s “American Sniper.” That was also a good film that had greatness escape its grasp due mostly a shifting narrative; however a strong central performance and powerful set pieces hold it together.


To say Tom Hanks is the reason this film works would be a waste of ink (well, characters on a keyboard). His Sully is a soft spoken, polite-to-a-fault man who hates that people think he is a hero for doing what he views as simply his job. There isn’t much to his character and if this was most any other actor than Hanks it would probably be a boring one; however as we know by this point in his career, Hanks is not most any other actor.


Eckhart turns in a quietly great performance as Sully’s co-pilot and confidant, never questioning Sully’s decision to land the plane in the Hudson but you can see the fear in his eyes. Linney simply has a few scenes talking and crying to Sully on the phone as the obligatory worried wife and she is fine, but unlike Hanks you could slip any actress into the role and it would be unchanged.


As I said earlier, the film’s biggest problem is its narrative. It is based off an event that lasted two and a half minutes but is stretched into a 96 minute movie (very short by Eastwood standards) and although the film is paced well, the way it is constructed is a tad disjointed. The film constantly jumps between the present day investigation against Sully and different perspectives of the crash, and it get a little messy at points. At other times it comes off as underwhelming, as some viewpoints of the crash simply aren’t as engaging as others.


There also isn’t a whole lot on the line, as we know historically that Sully made the right choice (despite what the film wants you to think people think). The trailers also try and paint a Denzel Washington “Flight” plot of Sully being questioned about possible alcoholism or troubles at home, but those are questions answered in one breath and never touched on again.


“Sully” has a strong performance from Tom Hanks and the main crash sequence is invigorating and looks and sounds as real as anything. It may not flow as evenly as one may like or hope based on the talent involved, but just like the white haired seasoned professional on which the film is based, Eastwood shows that even at 86 years old, he still is as capable as anyone in Hollywood to craft a solid drama.


Critics Rating: 7/10

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

‘American Sniper’ Shows the Horror, Necessity of War

American_Sniper_posterBecause, America.

“American Sniper” is based on the autobiography of the same name by Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. The film follows Kyle, dubbed the most lethal sniper in U.S. history with 160 confirmed kills, as he struggles to balance his duties on the battlefield with the ones at home. Bradley Cooper stars as Kyle, Sienna Miller plays his wife and Clint Eastwood directs.

Last January “Lone Survivor”, another true story about Navy SEALs, was released and it was an above-average, well-intentioned war film that had its fair share of miscues. “American Sniper” is right on par with “Survivor” as another real-life tale telling the story of some of the best and bravest men in the world, but it trips up along the way.

Clint Eastwood’s directorial filmography is really a tale of two types of films: engaging and interesting (“Gran Tornio”) or slow and mind-numbingly boring (“Hereafter”). His most recent film, last year’s “Jersey Boys” was a bit of both as the first half was great and the second half was Nyquil. “American Sniper” follows “Jersey Boys” because there are some parts that soar and are beautifully shot, but there are also some glaring narrative and pacing issues.

I know the story of Chris Kyle, and the man is a true American hero. Bradley Cooper does a very honorable portrayal of Kyle, playing a man who enlists in the SEALs because he wants to do something more with his life, but by the end of the film is questioning why he is doing what he is doing. Cooper essentially is playing two characters: badass super soldier and struggling husband.

The film does a good job showing Kyle in the early stages of his relationship with his wife, and by the end of the film how he has drifted apart because of the things he has seen and done in combat (despite him claiming his only regrets are the men he couldn’t save). Unlike most war films that are clearly pro-war or anti-war (or “Lone Survivor” which is accidently both), “American Sniper” walks the line quite delicately of what conflicts are actually worth getting into, and are they worth the lives of our soldiers?

One of the problems with the film, however, is how it handles the transitions between home and battle. The film opens up with Kyle sniping on an Iraq rooftop before abruptly cutting to a scene of him hunting as a child, as part of the obligatory “you’ve got a real knack for this sniping thing, kid!” moment. The rest of the film jumps back-and-forth between locations, sometimes without much explanation.

Sienna Miller does fine work as Kyle’s wife and she shares some tender scenes with Cooper, even if sometimes she is given nothing more than cliché “pregnant soldier wife” dialogue. The rest of the cast is solid, especially those portraying PTSD soldiers; however none of them are fleshed out or given too much to do.

“American Sniper” is a good-not-great movie that is a fitting tribute to its real-life subject, and features some well-shot battle sequences from Eastwood and some great scenes from Cooper. The film’s largest problem is its almost whiplash-inducing jumping to-and –from war scenes, as well as a frustrating ending that likely stems from the filmmakers not knowing how to properly handle the subject matter. Still, it is an enjoyable and at times tense and heart-breaking film about the horrors of warfare, and is one of the more honest war stories in recent years.

Critics Rating: 7/10



‘Jersey Boys’ Almost Too Good to Be True


            So I was the youngest person in the theater by at least 20 years. Not really a relevant way to begin a review, but I just found it interesting.

“Jersey Boys” is directed by Clint Eastwood and is based off the Broadway play of the same name. It tells the semi-fictionalized tale about the rise and fall of the band The Four Seasons. Three out of the four actors who portray the Seasons’ members also portrayed them in the Broadway version, and Christopher Walken stars as a mob boss.

Clint Eastwood movies are really polar; half are invigorating and entertaining, like “Million Dollar Baby”, while some are boring and slow, such as “Hereafter” and (to some people, but not me) “J. Edgar”. “Jersey Boys” has the unique distinction of falling into both of those categories; some of the movie is interesting and well-paced, while other parts are slow and suffer from tone identity crisis.

“Jersey Boys” is a tale of thirds. The first third of the film almost feels like “Goodfellas”, and I really was enjoying myself. The group was doing odd jobs around town, just trying to make a name for themselves. Then they form the band and the music is infectious and catchy (I’m still humming the songs). And then comes the film’s final stretch. It chooses to divert from following the band and instead focus in on Frankie Valli and his struggles at home, and the film slows down. Like kind of a lot.

John Lloyd Young won a Tony for his portrayal of Valli on stage and he does a good enough job in front of a camera, however he just doesn’t have the Hollywood acting chops to hold up an emotional scene. When on stage you have to speak with words more than body and facial expression, but a camera can catch everything and some of the faces he makes when the scene is supposed to be dramatic are almost awkward.

Christopher Walken is great doing his normal Christopher Walken thing however my favorite character in the film was Tommy DeVito (not the “Goodfellas” character), played by Vincent Piazza. He is a quick-talking conman who knows what to say to get what he wants, even if that means falling into debt with the wrong people. Piazza has some funny one-liners, and steals most every scene he is in.

One of the things I enjoyed about the film also was that the four main characters occasionally break the third wall and address the audience. Each one of the musicians gives exposition for a fourth of the film, just like how in the Broadway version each narrates a fourth of the play. I guess you could say they each have their own… season [looks around for high-five, puts head down]. Alright, moving on.

When “Jersey Boys” is good, it is very good and entertaining. However when it doesn’t work and hits a wall, especially in the final act, it is almost boring. It almost redeems itself with a well-done ending, however it then overstays its welcome and it just becomes a generic, feel-good wrap up.

Here’s what you get with “Jersey Boys”: the music is catchy, the set pieces are top-notch and there are a decent amount of laughs. I just wish the film was a bit shorter (clocks in at 134 minutes) and had better pacing near the end. But it’s an above average film and probably great for people of the Baby Boomer generation.

Critics Rating: 6/10